Joe’s Weather Blog: How low can we go tonight? (MON-1/15)

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Good late morning to you…the arctic air surged through the area early this morning…and now it’s flowing down through into Arkansas and Texas. This is an air mass about as cold as the one to start the New Year. I’ve been battling myself about how low the temperatures can get overnight…as there is potential for lows near 10  below. The issue though isn’t clear cut…there are several “ingredients” that I look for for this cold weather cake, if you will, that will be missing. So I’m not sure what will happen in the end…but I do know one thing…it will be cold!


Today: Steady temperatures with clouds and sunshine. Gusty NW winds to 15-25 MPH creating wind chills near 10 below will be common today. Temperatures will be around 10°

Tonight: The conundrum night. Clouds are a big factor…as well as the continuing winds. Both those are things that don’t favor temperatures as cold as the start to the New year (-11°). I’ll get more into this in the discussion. Anyway let’s sshoot for lows near -5° and mention that some will be colder.

Tuesday: A real struggle to get much above 10° with a mix of clouds and sunshine.

Wednesday: Another sub-zero start BUT temperatures may actually come up between 12AM-7AM as the winds switch towards the west and SW. Highs should rebound into the mid 20s


Yesterday was a weird weather day…I sent a DM to my colleagues at the NWS in Pleasant Hill after I got home around 12AM and wanted to see if I could jog there memories at all…because I couldn’t remember anything like this happening in my 20+ years in KC.

When was the last time we had a dry powdery (high ratio) snow in the morning and then a very wet/wintry mix event/snow less that 18 hours later?

Now the opposite has occurred before…that is not an issue for me…it was the sequence of the events yesterday that I was scratching my head and trying to remember a similar event…I couldn’t come up with anything. That was a weird day.

This was a result of a very cold air mass that started the day…then was shoved away as an arctic front allowed S/SW winds to push in some less “cold” air. That sent temperatures above us, and also for some at the surface, above 32°. At the station we had mostly wet snow…on the south side there was this wintry mix…at times rain/sleet then ending as some rather decent wet snow. It was pretty there around 1;30 am at my house as there were some bigger flakes coming down.

Again though…that flip from a “dry” snow to a very wet snow/wintry mix…was unique to me at least in the period of less than a day.

The arctic air is here now though and we’re in it for the next 36+ hours as of this writing. Look at how the temperatures have trended at KCI.

I was expecting a midnight high today…and we did that…33°. As of this writing we’re down to 9° and we’re not going to go far from there today.

Here is a look at the 10AM surface map…the arctic front is well south of the area…and I’ve drawn in the isotherms (lines of equal temperatures) every 10°

That’s some nasty cold air coming into the area…

So about tonight..this is my conundrum. To REALLY get brutally cold nights in KC…you need to have some things to allow temperatures to tank. 1) arctic air mass (we have that in spades). 2) clear skies (this is a BIG question). 3) Light winds, something on the order of under 5 mph (we won’t have that). 4) dry air (we sort of have that) and finally 5) snow cover (we’re pretty good there with widespread 1″ (at least) in the region.

The problem with tonight is mostly item #2. Clouds. They can wreck an extreme low temperature forecast. We also have to give a nod to item #3. Winds. They will be around 15 MPH or so overnight (contributing to really low wind chills). Item #2 though is the bugaboo. I’ve had too many forecasts bust because of this. When you don’t expect them…they come…when you think they will be an issue then open up “sucker holes” on you and temperatures in localized areas tank more than other areas around. It’s a very frustrating.

So let’s go about this in another way…IF we had the perfect conditions for tonight…I’d have now issue forecasting lows of 10 to 20 BELOW. We don’t though…so I don’t want to get that low with the forecast. On New Years Day we had all the ingredients in place EXCEPT for snowcover locally…and we still tanked to -11° with the same type of air mass in place as we have tonight. Now though we have snow on the ground BUT we may very well have clouds…and we’ll have wind…and that’s a tougher forecast headache.

So with all that said, for now I’ll go with -5°. IF I was working tonight I’d be staring at the satellite pictures through the late news because IF those clouds don’t develop and move through the area overnight…we’ll be 10 below I think in the morning.

Wednesday mornings conundrum is the wind shift expected around 12am-3am. That will play a large role in determining when temperatures stop falling. Odds are it will be somewhere in the 0 to -5° range then we start to recover into Wednesday daybreak to near 0° or even a bit above that.

I know I just wrote about 700 words about a few degrees of temperatures…what can I say…that’s what I think about when forecasting the weather.

I’ve been getting some FB and Twitter messages about folks talking up a big winter storm for KC this weekend. The models have entertained this idea to various degrees for about a week or so…and yes there should be a decent storm moving out of the Plains and getting it’s act together towards the east of KC. The problem (again) for snow lovers is that we’re going to really warm up again ahead of the storm…probably into the 50s on Saturday into Sunday morning. Moisture will be returning in the form of lots of low clouds on Saturday. Also the atmosphere as a whole will be moistening too especially overnight Saturday into Sunday…so the system should have something to work with.

What needs to happen though, and right now I’m not too thrilled by this potential…is the storm needs to be farther south…so that we don’t get into the mild air as bullishly on Saturday night and Sunday as we’re forecast to do. IF this can happen…and IF we can get into the colder air Sunday…we may have something cooking. Again though…that’s a lot of warm air on the front side of this thing…and that typically sends the surface low, which we need to be more towards southern MO for snow, more towards the I-70 corridor region…and that isn’t helpful usually for snow around these parts. Some wraparound snows are possible though, especially towards N MO and IA.

It’s obviously worth watching…but it just doesn’t seem like “our winter” around these parts. The rain though would be helpful. It’s even possible depending on how things play out, that there could be the year’s first rumble of thunder or two.

Our feature photo comes from Mary Kate Wachel…showing a nice fiery sunset from last night!

Stay warm my friends…




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